Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week is an annual observation started by the Workplace Bullying Institute to grasp the impact of workplace bullying and what we can do about it. For me, it’s a simple, gentle reminder: The work goes on.
This work should be grounded in an understanding that preventing and responding to bullying at work is a multi-faceted endeavor. Social workers are taught early in their training about systems theory, which explains how human behaviors are interconnected in complex ways. A problem that, from a distance, may appear to be an isolated, individual situation typically links to other persons and organizations, at least once you take a closer look. This applies to both causes and solutions.
Workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse rarely occur in a vacuum. It follows that preventing and responding to these behaviors requires buy-in from all stakeholders remotely connected to employee relations. They include, among others: Workers, their families, and their friends; labor and civil rights activists; executives, managers, and human resources directors; lawyers and legislators; mental health and medical professionals; and educators and researchers.
Furthermore, workplace bullying is related to many other forms of interpersonal abuse, including school bullying, cyberbullying and stalking, public mobbing, domestic and family abuse, and elder abuse. While each form of mistreatment presents its own unique dynamics, you’ll find plenty of similarities as well, including patterns of individual behavior, harms to targets, and institutional responses (or lack thereof).
In some instances, the aggressors may cross into different settings. A person who experiences one form of abuse may be more vulnerable to another in the future. Regardless of the specific context, others besides the aggressor(s) and target(s) will be affected. Generally, an overall social ethic can seep into sub-settings for good and bad alike; societal cultures vary widely in their rejection or acceptance of abusive behaviors.
This also is why I’ve been sounding a broader theme of human dignity in a lot of recent posts. The sooner we can build our broad-based, interconnected network of individuals and institutions committed to human dignity, the faster we’ll see a reduction of workplace bullying and other types of mistreatment.
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